Cheddar is probably one of the most popular cheeses in the world, so no wonder that pregnant women wonder if it’s OK to eat it. Here’s a complete guide to eating cheddar cheese during pregnancy, including some dishes that contain it, too.
Can Pregnant Women Eat Cheddar Cheese? As a hard cheese, cheddar is usually safe for pregnant women to eat, even if it’s not heated up. Due to its low water content, cheddar cheese is safe, even if it’s made with unpasteurized milk.
I’ve broken down some common questions about cheddar in pregnancy and also provided a list of ‘pregnancy safe’ brands, just in case you wanted to check your favorite.
Is Cheddar Cheese Made With Pasteurized Milk?
Even though it’s named after the town of Cheddar in England, cheddar cheese isn’t a protected cheese and can be made anywhere. Therefore you’ll probably come across ‘cheddar’ in many countries, and they’re all slightly different.
Traditionally, cheddar cheese is made with raw, unpasteurized milk. So how come it’s still safe for pregnant women? The answer lies in both the process (know as cheddaring) and the aging time.
In the USA, the FDA allow cheddar to be made with unpasteurized milk, but it has to be aged for at least 60 days before selling it (source: FDA).
Elsewhere, cheddar is usually aged for at least 60 days anyway, as this improves flavor and texture. “Mild” cheddar is quite young and is about 2-3 months old. “Aged” or “sharp” cheddar can be aged for more than a year or even several years.
This aging time reduces the water content of cheddar. This is why it’s classified as hard cheese, and it’s also why it’s safe during pregnancy – listeria needs moisture to thrive, and there’s very little moisture in cheddar cheese (source: Center for Food Safety).
The upshot of all this? Even if it’s made from pasteurized milk, cheddar cheese is safe in pregnancy as its low moisture content makes it difficult for listeria to grow.
Can I Eat Aged / Sharp / Mature Cheddar Cheese if I’m Pregnant?
Aged cheddar, sometimes called ‘vintage’ cheddar, is safe in pregnancy because it has even less moisture, and more acidity. The older the cheddar, the more brittle and hostile to bacteria it becomes.
The ‘sharp’ element usually refers to tangy, aged cheddar too. There is no risk in eating sharp cheddar during pregnancy. It may cause your mouth to tingle, but that’s just a pleasant side effect of the taste!
Is Smoked Cheddar Safe For Pregnant Women?
Cheese is always cold smoked rather than hot smoked, otherwise the cheese would melt during the smoking process, and be pretty gross.
Although pregnant women should avoid some cold smoked foods, like smoked salmon, you can safely eat smoked cheddar during pregnancy.
The smoking doesn’t make any difference to its safety – what matters is the fact it’s still a hard cheese and is therefore safe.
Cheddar Blocks vs Cooked Cheddar Cheese in Pregnancy
Cheddar can be eaten straight off the block, cold. For this reason, it can safely be added to salads and sandwiches.
You can read all about washing fruit and veg in pregnancy if you prepare a lot of salads, and there’s also a guide here to which sandwich fillings are pregnancy-safe.
Cooked or melted cheddar is also safe, for example, in mac and cheese, in a grilled cheese sandwich, or as a topping for a casserole. I’ve listed some dishes below in this article that are safe during pregnancy, too.
Pregnancy-Safe Cheddar Cheese Brands
When you’re shopping, rather than picking through labels, you might just want to know if your favorite cheddar cheese is OK in pregnancy.
To save you time and effort, here’s a list of cheddar cheese brands that are fine to eat if you’re pregnant:
- Mersey Valley
- Trader Joe’s (own brand or otherwise)
- Boar’s Head
- Cathedral City
- Pilgrims’ Choice
- Cracker Barrel
- Organic Valley
- 365 (Whole Foods)
- Any other supermarket own-brand
- Any USA produced cheese over 60 days old – check in other countries
I also ought to mention that other cheeses fall under the classification of ‘cheddar’, so the information on this page also applies to:
- White cheddar
- Yellow cheddar
- Cheddar Jack
- Smoked Cheddar
- American Cheddar
- Cheddar slices or pre-formed sticks or slices (e.g. Kraft Singles)
- Shredded cheddar (fresh or frozen)
- Dried or powdered cheddar (e.g. cheddar cheese popcorn)
- Cheddar flavored items, if everything else is pregnancy-safe (e.g. cheddar and sour cream crackers or chips)
Is Cheddar Cheese Good or Healthy for Pregnant Women?
Since it’s both pregnancy-safe AND tasty, you’re probably wondering if cheddar is ‘good’ during pregnancy.
Cheddar is a good source of protein, calcium and phosphorous (source: Nutrition Data). However, it packs a lot of saturated fat (5.9g per 10z slice).
Some versions can contain a lot of sodium, too. For these reasons, cheddar cheese can be enjoyed – but in moderation in pregnancy.
I find a good way to get all the cheesy flavor without piling on the calories is to shred or grate the cheese into healthier food. For example:
- A fresh tomato, basil and olive oil salad with cheddar cheese grated on top.
- Use shredded or grated cheese in place of large blocks of it, such as in sandwiches or for melting on top of bakes or casseroles
- A microplane can turn a very small block of cheddar into a big fluffy pile of it – it makes a little go a very long way!
- Crumble some cheddar on top of a hearty soup or bake it into biscuits to get the cheesy flavor without eating solid blocks
Dishes with Cheddar in and Their Pregnancy Safety
To finish, here are some common dishes containing cheddar cheese that I get asked about a lot, as to whether they’re safe or not:
- Arby’s beef and cheddar – yes, it’s pregnancy safe. For more on the beef, read this complete guide to roast beef in pregnancy, but rest assured Arby’s cheddar is safe.
- Cheddar in soup (for example, Panera Bread’s broccoli cheddar soup). Soups that contain cheddar are usually safe, because the cheddar is cooked as the soup boils. Cheddar is safe anyway, even if it’s not cooked (as discussed above), so check the other ingredients – usually they’re fine in hot soup.
- Cheddar mac and cheese – yes, this is also safe in pregnancy, but since it’s quite heavy and calorific, you’ll have to shelve this under the ‘treat’ section for pregnancy and only have it in moderation. Sucks, I know!
Tip: Cheese lovers should definitely check out my ultimate list of cheeses you can eat in pregnancy. It’s got loads of them that are safe for pregnant women!
I’ve written some articles on specific cheeses too, such as: